I get envy when I go to malls in the Twin Cities. What's up with ours?

It's not something that goes unnoticed at all, that is the things Miller Hill Mall lacks. Our mall lacks many of the stores that Duluthians desire, stores that seem to be popping up in an overwhelming population in the Twin Cities area. Our mall seems to lack the excitement and busyness that the malls in the Twin Cities and Rochester seem to be filled with. Our mall lacks the marble floors, modern light fixtures, and leather furniture that seems to cover ever surface of the malls in the Twin Cities areas. Our mall seems to be undesired by most.

Hey now! Enough with the smash talk, our mall is getting better! Yes, yes, yes, the mall may seem as if it's stuck in the era in which it was built in. And yes, the mall does not entirely match, but at least an effort is being put out. I find that when discussing the topic of the Miller Hill Mall with many Duluthians that they all seem to get some type of disgusted look upon their face. Believe it or not, some even bring up how they would rather (and do) travel to the Twin Cities area to shop just because of the better store selection and better shopping environment. I agree with people that the Miller Hill Mall has a lot more potential that it's current state. It's the only major mall for over 150 miles and it serves a population of over 250,000 people. So therefor what is stopping Simon (the company that owns the mall) from taking the mall up a step. A lot actually. Let's go back a decade...

Not sure how many of you remember this, but when the mall originally was built it only included the wing from JCPenney to DSW. That expansion opened in 1987 bringing the mall to over 100 stores. Then in the mid 90's the mall was suppose to expand for a third time. This expansion would occur off the end of the second expansion and would have made the current Sears space into smaller shops, while adding a new two story Sears, new retail space, and another anchor (it was suppose to be a Dayton's, Macy's now a days). That proposal went into a city wide referendum and was approved, but for some reason the expansion was never built. As to why, we don't really know. But now that brings us to the current time.

If you've emailed the mall about something, whether that be a new store, an expansion, or renovation. You've probably not received an email back. Why? I can only assume that they are either busy, or the person handling the email account was a little ticked off at the influx of emails regarding a negativity towards the mall. But recently if you've tried contacting them, they may have actually replied. Why? Well, there is are some new people in positions at the mall, so that may be one reason. Or the fact that the mall finally is starting to get it's act together regarding the physical mall itself and the retailers in it. One cannot disagree that within the past five years there has been a significant change for the better in the mall. We have seen the addition of new tenants such as Finish Line, Aerie, Famous Footwear, Hollister, Icing by Claire's, Coldwater Creek, and countless renovated spaces. What people have to realize is that the mall can do everything it can to lure in a tenant, but it is ultimately up to the tenant on whether they do or do not locate in the mall. The issue most retailers run into is either the distance from their current stores, or the lack of space. The mall sits at almost 900,000 square feet, but the problem is that many of it's spaces are smaller spaces (1,000-2,000)., while most modern stores today (J. Jill, J. Crew, Express, Banana Republic, H&M) usually require spaces that are 2,000 + square feet. Ultimately what it comes down to is the mall lacks the space. They have been doing very well in the past few years about combining spaces that are small or that have underperforming tenants into one larger space. I think we all have noticed the sheer amount of moving around retailers have been doing in the mall lately in order to make room for new larger tenants. So what are my thoughts?

I believe that mall really has started to create quite a strong tenant list. They are starting to bring in larger national chains that the people of Duluth have wanted for years. The problem? They tend to be bringing in a single type of store. Most of the recent additions are geared towards women in general. There is a significant lack in men's clothing stores, along with specialty stores. The other issue the mall has? The current state of the interior and exterior are not up to date enough and often push people away instead of luring. Now after talking to mall officials, a renovation is at the top of the list for the mall, but the problem is that Simon assigns malls to a list for renovations and currently there are quite a bit of malls ahead of the Miller Hill Mall. Where you are placed on the list also tends to be dependent on the infrastructure of the mall rather than the cosmetic appearance of the mall. While it appears to most people that the mall has only renovated a little (the Old Navy Court, the new entrance/lifestyle component, a small renovation of the food court (new flooring and lighting)), there actually has been a lot of work behind the scenes. That's what mall officials are saying might cause the delay in an interior cosmetic renovation. As much as they would like one and as much as they know the mall needs one, it ultimately is up to corporate.

So what's on the list of my hopes for the coming years? Obviously a renovation, both interior and exterior. They have done quite a nice job with the new components, and I could see the rest of the mall being extremely nice if it is carried out the same way. A stronger mix of tenants. A entertainment factor (something to get people to stay at the mall, I.E. a movie theater or bowling ally). And ultimately an expansion. The mall need's more space. I believe that if they were to build an expansion, there would be no issue at all in filling it. But we can all rest assured that the mall is doing everything in their power to make the Miller Hill Mall the best it can be! Just take a look at how drastically the front of the mall has changed!

The future only holds bright things for the Miller Hill Mall. Those who wait receive the best of things in the end! So until then, try emailing the mall your thoughts. Maybe they will respond, maybe they won't. But at least they will realize there is a demand!

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